Although most everyone has tried to tighten their budgets during this economy, there’s an extravagance that endures: a good drink. It stands to reason, of course, that people simply want to ease their nerves about lean times.
But, a silver lining to this three-year recession is perhaps a better appreciation of wine values. Interest has picked up for obscure varietals and new (read: old) regions that are driven more by devotion to practice and place. There’s new opportunity for, say, Spanish whites and Austrian reds. Other grapes thought long forgotten are experiencing a oenophillic Renaissance. Without artificial inflation by the trade press, the prices of these wines often remain reasonable.
Sommelier Greg Sorrell of Chicago’s D.O.C. Wine Bar keenly monitors emerging wines, along with the trends that thrive despite the hard times. Though an almost reverential student of the grape, Mr. Sorrell is not overly formal or severely serious; his passion is reflected in an affable demeanor that comforts and encourages his customers. Value Wine Chicago had an opportunity to speak with the well-spoken, yet casual sommelier:
“Many people have had Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but when they come here, they are looking for a real experience,” says Mr. Sorrell. “There are some novice wine drinkers who come in, and they will hear a conversation about (something more esoteric) say, Austrian Zweigelt. We try to provide them with an unintimidating approach to discovering something different. This gives them a sense of knowledge, which they can take away and build on for the future.”
Mr. Sorrell also offers his suggestions for value-priced red and white wines (priced under $15 at retail):
“A red that I really like is the Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc 2008, from the North Coast of California. It’s very flexible, and I really love it with smoked duck breast. For a white, I like the Gessami Gramona 2008 from the Penedés region of Spain. It’s 60% Moscato, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Gewurztraminer. When you see a Gewurztraminer from Spain, that’s something truly unique.”